No romance for Coventry as Hiddink's honeymoon goes on
Coventry City 0 Chelsea 2
Sunday 08 March 2009
Five out of five and at least one visit to Wembley booked in for the fans. Guus Hiddink's first four weeks in charge must now be credited as being the start of dreams. Of a billionaire's dream at that. In truth, though, anything but advancement from this rather dull FA Cup quarter-final would have been disappointing for Guy the Gorilla, never mind Guus the Genius; particularly as Hiddink fielded his strongest XI. With the Champions' League return leg at Juventus looming on Tuesday, it was, as the Coventry manager, Chris Coleman, called it, "the greatest compliment".
Perhaps Hiddink was thinking back to the club's humiliating exit at the same stage against Barnsley last year; or perhaps he was expecting rather more from a Coventry side who never truly managed to raise themselves above their Championship standing. Then again, maybe Hiddink truly does hold the old competition in such high esteem. "We don't have priority for the Champions' League," he said. "The FA Cup is not just respected in England but worldwide."
Certainly it would have been no surprise to see him "rest" Ashley Cole after his arrest outside a West End nightspot in the early hours of Thursday morning. Hiddink maintained that after "addressing the issue" with the England defender he did not think about dropping him – "not for a single moment". As it was, Cole's performance was both sober and orderly; a description that neatly summed up Chelsea.
Coleman billed it as "the biggest game in the history of this stadium", which seeing as it has been in use since August 2005 was not the grandest of statements. Nevertheless, this was the first time the Ricoh Arena had been at capacity. Well, that is not strictly true, as Oasis had also managed to raise the sold-out signs. Coleman was certainly looking back in anger about the referee's display.
"I was disappointed with [Steve] Bennett," said the Welshman. "He was too smug towards us. Some of my players said he was very friendly to the Chelsea players. They weren't happy with his attitude."
Coleman admitted Coventry did not exactly help themselves; especially with the first goal. Just 15 minutes had gone when a boot upfield was first allowed towards their area by Ben Turner, where it was then miscontrolled by Scott Dann as the bulk of Didier Drogba was bearing down on him. The Ivorian's finish from a rapidly diminishing angle – Drogba's third goal in four games – was one of the game's two moments of class.
The other came with the lightning-swift break which led to a second goal that Coleman was to dispute vehemently and Hiddink was to label "beautiful". Alas, in between the fare was all too ugly as Chelsea struggled to find the killer ball and Coventry embarked on their wild Guus chase.
Leon Best created the home side's finest chance with a jinking run before shooting over, and Frank Lampard and the rejuvenated Drogba both went close. The game was made to wait until the 72nd minute for the second goal. Coleman's ire was again directed towards Bennett, whom he believed waved on Alex and Drogba too quickly when the pair had been forced to leave the pitch after receiving treatment for a clash of heads.
Chelsea were down to nine men as they tried to defend one of many Aron Gunnarsson long throw-ins. But before the ball had bounced the two Blues were running back on, and within 30 seconds Alex had side-footed into the net up at the other end following a cross by the substitute Ricardo Quaresma. It was a bizarre passage, which probably stemmed from a bizarre law. Even Hiddink admitted: "That rule needs to be reconsidered."
For now he has more pressing concerns. Nicolas Anelka is doubtful to figure in Turin, where Chelsea will seek to convert their 1-0 advantage, while he has a quandary about whether to start Michael Essien. Yesterday the midfielder came on with 25 minutes remaining for his first action in six months following an anterior cruciate ligament injury. It was a pleasing sight for the Blues. Indeed, everything looks that much rosier now.
Referee: Steve Bennett.
Man of the match: Drogba.
Match rating: 5/10.
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